After a few years in the works, three outdoor musical structures now mark the spot at Englewood Park next to the Boys & Girls Club.
“For weeks the kids just saw the slab out here; it was just a plain, concrete slab, and they were curious,” said J.C. Schwab, director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Emerald Coast Pensacola club, in reference to the building anticipation for what would become a Harmony Parks site.
Installation of the three instruments, along with three benches, occurred in December.
“We didn’t spoil it for them and when the equipment finally came, we made a special trip and brought our entire membership out to come see the new equipment and gave a lot of the kids the opportunity to try it out,” Schwab said.
The music begins.
On a recent weekday afternoon, some of the kids in the after-school program at the Boys & Girls Club are giving the instruments a whirl, beating away on two types of xylophones and a set of colorful drums.
According to Schwab, Harmony Parks is a nice addition to their existing recreation space and reinforces the music education Boys & Girls Club has offered at the Pensacola location for a couple of years.
“We have music classes every Friday, once a week, with our kindergarten-2nd grade and our 3rd-5th grade groups,” said Schwab, calling it an enrichment project they’re able to provide thanks to a grant from 21st Century Community Learning Centers.
“So, we have a certified music instructor that comes and does a drum class with our kids every Friday, at both our Montclair and Englewood location here.”
Eleven-year-old Bryson, who happens to be the spelling bee champion at Oakcrest Elementary School and will participate in the annual Sandy Sansing Spelling Bee at the end of the month (Jan.), is called over to demonstrate what they’ve been learning in their weekly drum class.
“This is like the drum formation,” explained Bryson as he begin to strike the drum with his hand. “This is open...face...and slap.”
One of the girls in the group picked up the rhythm and continued on, “She’s got it,” said Bryson.
“One of the most beautiful things about it is you don’t have to have any kind of musical experience; the notes are supposed to sound good together in any combination,” said Sigrid Solgard, executive director of Keep Pensacola Beautiful.
Solgard learned about Harmony Parks while visiting her grandparents a few years ago in Minnesota.
“They have this beautiful Harmony Park at one of their parks that actually surrounds a lake, and their instruments were spaced out around this walking path that surrounded their lake. And I was like, these are really cool, and I’d really like to see something like this in Pensacola,” said Solgard.
According to the KPB director noted that this type of park meets the mission of their organization in terms of creating places in the community that encourage people of all ages to get outdoors. She was motivated further by the fact that this area was lacking.
“On the (Freenotes) Harmony Park website, the manufacturer of these instruments, they have a map of all the locations where they have Harmony Parks and we didn’t have any within like 50-100 miles of Pensacola,” Solgard said. “I thought it would be a great addition.”
The Harmony Parks project, which cost about $13,000, has been in the works for about three years and finally came together with funding from a variety of sponsors.
Escambia County CRA, Walmart Neighborhood Market (Mobile Hwy.), AARP Florida-Community Challenge, Pensacola Opera, Blues Angel Music, Escambia County Parks and Recreation, and the Kelly Family have contributed to the project.
Escambia Looking to branch out into Escambia County, Solgard says Englewood Park on North H Street was chosen as the area’s first Harmony Parks site. One consideration was Keep Pensacola Beautiful’s annual index of roadside litter throughout the county.
“What we want to do is kind of target the areas in the county that had a higher rating for litter,” explained Solgard. “Because research has shown that areas that are kind of purposely beautified, where you have landscaping or an area that’s pretty obviously cared for, tends to attract less litter.”
“To me, I think they did it because we have a captive audience here,” said J.C. Schwab at the Boys & Girls Club, which is next to Englewood Park and the new Harmony Park.
“We have an after-school program that we operate Monday through Friday from 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. We serve anywhere from 60-75 kids a day at this location, and we have an additional 30 kids at Montclair Elementary School.”
So far, the response from the kids has been great.
“I like it because you can express yourself in many ways by doing music,” said 10-year old Norolaine.
Eight-year-old Trinity expressed gratitude and talked about feeling the vibration throughout her body while playing the instruments, while 11-year-old Kelis, pointed out the popularity of the xylophones.
Bryson, the 5th-grader, who provided the drum demonstration, summed it up this way, “Well, I think it’s really nice because we get to come outside and just mess around with the instruments and just try to make new sounds.”
Keep Pensacola Beautiful is planning to pursue more Harmony Parks locally, and this the kind of feedback could boost those efforts.
The Grand Opening of the first ever Harmony Park in Pensacola is Friday afternoon, 3:30, at Englewood Park, 2751 N. H St.